Joyce cashing in on the price of popularity

THE hand-wringing in Australia’s media in recent days over Barnaby Joyce’s decision to accept $150,000 for a commercial television interview has a real taste of sour grapes about it.

Mr Joyce will, reportedly, front Channel 7 cameras along with his new partner Vikki Campion and new son Sebastian to give his side of the Barnababy affair.

The scandal cost him his job as deputy prime minister and catapulted Ms Campion into the (unwanted) national spotlight, and now they’re seeking to salvage something in return.

But the pair’s decision to accept payment for the interview – money that Mr Joyce says will be put into a trust account for their son – has inevitably seen him labelled a hypocrite after previously pleading with the media to respect their privacy.

Columnists say he has sold his integrity and colleagues say he has broken one of the unwritten rules of politics, and plenty suggest the public will never forgive him. But don’t be so sure.

The ongoing political and media criticism of Mr Joyce simply betrays a lack of understanding of his popularity in the first place.

Mr Joyce became one of the country’s most popular – and most recognisable – politicians simply because he looked different and sounded different to the rest.

But Mr Joyce has been able to combine that “bloke next door” persona with an undeniable intelligence that may not have been as evident in other popular – or populist – politicians.

Mr Joyce’s style is a mix of policy and pragmatism that has made him a formidable performer inside parliament and an engaging performer in public.

And the punters who have always supported Mr Joyce are likely to be less offended by him taking money for an interview than they would be by the mock outrage of those in the commercial media who were outbid for the prize.

In the end, a paid interview is probably a fitting final chapter to this whole tawdry saga.

It has been a very human story of love and loss, power and passion, interest and intrigue.

But if the general public is as angry about Mr Joyce’s paid interview as some of his political colleagues and media commentators, then expect them to tune out in droves when the interview goes to air.

Something tells us that’s not going to happen.